The Centre’s assurance of normalcy in Kashmir is hollow
Alienation corrodes democracy. The statement by the newly-appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir, S P Malik, that mistakes committed by India have alienated the restive state from the Union should be seen as an admission of the faltering political project in strife-torn Kashmir. The challenges confronting the local elections — the polls for municipalities, councils and committees that are expected to take place in four phases, starting October 8 — seem to bear further evidence of the unwillingness of the people and some of their representatives to be a part of the electoral process, supposedly one of the hallmarks of democracy. The two principal political parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, have decided not to participate in the proceedings. Their decision is being attributed to anxieties concerning the dilution of Article 35A, an apprehension that has been dismissed by Mr Malik. Neither the PDP nor its rival is willing to concede that abstainment could, ironically, strengthen the hands of the separatist outfits that have issued threats. The implications of their intimidation are clear. A number of wards — 172 according to some estimates — are going uncontested while a single candidate is in the fray in around 190 wards. Shockingly, the names of the victorious candidates have been kept under wraps. The need for secrecy is indicative of the precipitous deterioration on the ground.
These developments and the governor’s statement have laid bare a dirty secret: the Centre’s assurance of normalcy in Kashmir is hollow. The blame squarely lies with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was in an uneasy alliance with the PDP before the imposition of governor’s rule. The slide in the Valley under the BJP’s watch can be explained by the party’s rigid faith not in dialogue but in dominance. There can be no compromise on security in Kashmir. But vigilance, according to the minders of the BJP, is inseparable from aggression. That the ruling party chooses to view the long and complicated history of Kashmir’s grievances through the narrow lens of sectarianism and a shrill nationalism for the sake of political gain speaks volumes about the BJP’s commitment to and capability of resolving seemingly intractable problems. The governor has talked of creating an “environment of trust”. That can only happen if the Centre is able to reclaim the people’s trust and the ground that has been ceded.